Arrested and Beaten for Wearing Trousers: Stop the Public Flogging of Women in Sudan!

Three Sudanese women, one of them wearing trousers, walk on a main street in central Khartoum on September 8, 2009. The thousands of women who wear trousers every day all run the risk of a flogging if police decide their clothes are provocative. ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP/Getty Images

Three Sudanese women, one of them wearing trousers, walk on a main street in central Khartoum on September 8, 2009. The thousands of women who wear trousers every day all run the risk of a flogging if police decide their clothes are provocative. ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP/Getty Images

By Amal Habani, Winner of Amnesty International USA’s 2015 Ginetta Sagan Award

In July 2009 when my colleague was arrested and tried for wearing trousers in Khartoum, I could no longer stay silent.

Women and girls in Sudan are constantly confronted with obstacles imposed by the public order regime that hinder their freedom of movement, their freedom of association, and their ability to make personal choices on a daily basis.  As a Sudanese woman, I had always encountered these problems and as such, aspired to become a journalist to speak out for social change.

The public order regime in Sudan consists of laws and practices that allow the imposition of corporal punishment for what is seen as immoral behavior.  Notably, Sudan’s Criminal Penal Code of 1991, article 152, which was renamed and incorporated into the Society Safety Code (2009), calls for the punishment of people who perform in public, an “indecent act or an act contrary to public morals or wears an obscene outfit or contrary to public morals or causing an annoyance to public feelings.”[1]  Those who violate this law may be subject to flogging not exceeding forty lashes and/or fined. Because the standard for contradicting public morality is subjective and not defined, this article is frequently applied arbitrarily to the detriment of women and girls.

This system disproportionately affects women and girls due to deeply entrenched gender-based discrimination where women and girls can be stopped by police, sent before a judge, and sentenced to a public flogging for nothing more than wearing pants or leaving their hair uncovered.

There are also issues of due process including the right to a lawyer and a fair trial. Defendants in most cases are tried immediately or within a few days by public order courts which do not meet Sudanese or international fair trial standards.  Amnesty International has documented cases where defendants are lashed within hours of their arrest.

I estimate that 40,000 to 50,000 females in Khartoum alone are detained, tried, and punished each year under the public order regime.  Many are traumatized and afraid to speak out due to a fear of stigmatization.

Amnesty International and other international organizations, including the United Nations, have condemned the flogging of women, calling for the abolition of this punishment.  In accordance with international and domestic law, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Sudan’s 2005 Interim Constitution, Sudan should put an end to flogging, as it constitutes cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.

In response to the subjugation of my colleague and countless others, I co-founded the No to Oppressing Women Initiative (NOW) in 2009 to campaign against the Public Order Laws.  As part of NOW, I along with other activists submitted a memorandum to the Ministry of Justice calling to repeal these laws, and in response we were beaten and arrested by the police.  In July 2012, I was arrested again, detained for four days, and subjected to psychological torture while campaigning for the release of NOW women activists.

Women activists in Sudan are working fearlessly and tirelessly to advocate against flogging women for violations of the public order laws.  But this has not been enough.

No one should have to be afraid of being arrested and beaten for wearing pants in public.

Join me and other women activists and tell the government of Sudan to:

  • Repeal Article 152 of the Criminal Code 1991 because the article is vague and discriminatory, and fails to adhere to Sudan’s human rights obligations;
  • Remove the penalty of flogging for crimes against public order because it is cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment; and
  • Fulfill their obligations under human rights treaties, including Article 7 of the ICCPR, and Article 5 of the African Charter of Human and Peoples Rights

TAKE ACTION NOW!

[1] Sudan Criminal Penal Code of 1991, art. 152 “Obscene and Indecent Acts,” accessed 14 November 2014: <http://www.ecoi.net/file_upload/1329_1202725629_sb106-sud-criminalact1991.pdf>

(Contributions by Cindy Ko)

Victory in Paraguay is a Big Step Forward for Domestic Violence Survivors

no more violence

By Debbie Sharnak, Argentina-Paraguay country specialist

On August 27, 2014, Paraguay took a huge step forward in promoting the rights of domestic violence survivors when they released Lucia Sandoval from prison. Sandoval had been in jail for over three years on the charge of homicide after she defended herself against an abusive husband. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

What’s next for women’s rights? Have your say!

 

IWD-WRRHR5This month we celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8 and the kick-off of the 59th UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). Both of these events happen every year. But this year is special.

2015 marks the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the landmark framework on women’s health and rights. This is where our rallying cry, “women’s rights are human rights,” originated (though the concept has been around a lot longer than 20 years!). It’s also the basis of our My Body My Rights campaign, which seeks to accelerate progress on comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights, issues that still have a long way to go. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

International Violence Against Women Act Reintroduced and Time is Ticking!

Violence devastates the lives of millions of women and girls worldwide every year (Photo Credit: Mahmud Khaled/AFP/Getty Images)

Violence devastates the lives of millions of women and girls worldwide every year (Photo Credit: Mahmud Khaled/AFP/Getty Images)

There’s little doubt that you’ve repeatedly heard about the incessant global epidemic of violence against women and girls; I am certain you’ve seen one too many horrific headlines highlighting unthinkable instances of gender-based violence around the world.

Like me, you’re also undoubtedly distressed by the violence and simultaneously weary of the struggle to end it. It is overwhelming and daunting to grasp how we can work to effectively end this widespread human rights abuse.

But we cannot give up on our efforts. With every day that passes, violence continues to devastate the lives of countless more women and girls in every part of the world. We must continue to push for a solution. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

For Women’s Rights Defenders: Every Day is International Women’s Day

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Each year on International Women’s Day, the world celebrates the acts of courage and determination of women worldwide.  It’s a global celebration of the accomplishments, legacy, and rights of women.

What International Women’s Day also highlights, however, is the continued struggle for women’s rights.  And no one knows that better than women’s rights defenders like Bahareh Hedayat of Iran and Norma Cruz of Guatemala. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

One Billion Women and Girls Deserve Better

One Billion Rising event in New Delhi on February 14, 2014. The One Billion Rising campaign is a global call for an end to violence against women and girls and that survivors should receive justice. PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images

One Billion Rising event in New Delhi on February 14, 2014. The One Billion Rising campaign is a global call for an end to violence against women and girls and that survivors should receive justice. PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images

By: Cindy Ko, Ending Violence Against Women Fellow; DC Legislative Coordinator

This Valentine’s Day, show your love for humanity and demand change for women and girls: join Amnesty International and V-Day, a global movement dedicated to ending gender-based violence, for the annual One Billion Rising Revolution campaign to end violence against women and girls. In a world populated with over 7 billion people, one in three women will be physically, sexually, or otherwise abused during her lifetime: that’s a staggering one billion women and girls who have experienced violence. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

One Vote Made the Difference for Guadalupe!

The hands of Beatriz who almost died waiting for permission to terminate a pregnancy that could have killed her.

Thanks to everyone who took part in the very urgent social media action to free Guadalupe!

Guadalupe is one of 17 Salvadoran women who were sentenced to 12 to 40 years in prison after suffering miscarriages. The only legal option left for these women is a pardon. Last week, the Salvadoran National Assembly failed to approve a pardon for Guadalupe by just one vote. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

How Did the State of the Union Stack Up On Human Rights?

Obama Travels To Connecticut To Advocate Passing Of Stricter Gun Laws

During tonight’s State of the Union address, President Obama touched on issues of national security, criminal justice reform, immigration policy and women’s health, all of which involve human rights.

It is important to promote awareness of these issues as part of the US national conversation. But as always, the proof is in the pudding. So how do President Obama’s words stack up against actions?

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#DearObama: 3 Steps to Advance Rights of Women and Girls in Your State of the Union

U.S. President Barack Obama (C), joined by (L-R) Vice Chairwoman of the Tulalip Tribes of Washington State Deborah Parker, Attorney General Eric Holder, Vice President Joseph Biden, trafficking survivor Tysheena Rhames, House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Sen. Michael Crapo (R-ID), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), House Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI), Director of Public Policy of Casa de Esperanza Rosemary Hidalgo-McCabe, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), Police Chief James Johnson of Baltimore County in Maryland, and Executive Director of New York City Anti-Violence Project Police Department Sharon Stapel, signs the Violence Against Women Act into law at the Department of the Interior March 7, 2013 in Washington, DC. The law expands protections for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and trafficking.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

President Obama, , joined by Vice Chairwoman of the Tulalip Tribes of Washington State Deborah Parker, trafficking survivor Tysheena Rhames, Police Chief James Johnson of Baltimore County in Maryland, and Executive Director of New York City Anti-Violence Project Police Department Sharon Stapel, and members of Congress and his adminstration, signs the Violence Against Women Act into law March 7, 2013. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

This blog is part of a series on human rights in the State of the Union address. The United States has an obligation to pursue policies that ensure respect for human rights at home and around the world. Follow along and join the conversation using #SOTUrights.

Dear Mr. President,

This State of the Union, will you make women’s rights a priority?

Women across the world—including here in the U.S.—experience horrific levels of violence. 1 of 3 women globally will be raped, beaten, or otherwise abused in their lifetime, and you, Mr. President, can help end this epidemic.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Celebrate a Victory for Dominican Women & Urge El Salvador to Follow!

Women shout slogans during a march to commemorate UN's International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, on November 25, 2014 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. (Photo: ERIKA SANTELICES/AFP/Getty Images)

Women during a march to commemorate UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. (Photo: ERIKA SANTELICES/AFP/Getty Images)

Until now, the Dominican Republic was one of the few nations with a complete ban on abortion.  The law did not allow exceptions for the health and safety of the woman; rape or incest; or severe fetal abnormality.  That changed on December 19, when President Danilo Medina put into effect a new Criminal Code that allows abortions under the above-mentioned circumstances.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST